The immediacy of information in the age of the Internet, at the most basic consideration, has been double-edged. Knowledge at our fingertips, though infinitely convenient, can be seen as a hindrance to sense of satisfaction evoked from its pursuit. The microscopic lens over the plane of our world has made us at once both intelligent and unappreciative of said intelligence. Our social networks, our search engines, our satellite-powered maps that eliminate the distance between us are givens, when two decades ago, they were science-fiction. We use them instinctively. We use them perpetually. Often, we use them maliciously.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s CATFISH introduces us to Yaniv Schulman, a charming but naive twenty-something working as a photographer in New York. One day, he receives a painting of one of his photographs from an eight-year-old admirer, Abby Pierce, who lives in rural Michigan. Through Facebook, the two burgeoning artists forge a professional relationship (Niv sends Abby photographs, she paints them and mails them to him). This relationship grows more professionally with Abby’s mother, and romantically-but-unexpectedly with Abby’s older sister, Megan. They seem a perfect family — perhaps too perfect to be true — and emerging from a charming tale of unlikely friendship is heartbreaking revelation and an impromptu search for truth.
CATFISH is many things: inspiring and cautionary, charming and caustic, uplifting and enraging. Its language and its reliance on social networks serves as a true-to-life portrayal of the cybersocial 21st century. As a slide beneath the aforementioned lens of a microscope, it will be received by this generation as an honest testament to the state of social life, and by the previous generation as an alien, voyeuristic, and almost maddening disassociation from what is genuine and tangible in the world. CATFISH created a dialogue among us bloggers immediately after its closing credits began to roll, and I can it doing the same with the public. In this, it is apparent that this film is quite possibly the most powerful socially relevant of the Sundance Film Festival.